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U.S. SOCOM to Pursue “New Start” Program aimed at providing a solution for SOF helicopter operations in Degraded Visual Environments (DVE)

On 23 May 2012 at the Special Operations Forces Industry Conference (SOFIC 2012), U.S. SOCOM Rotary Wing Acquisition Program Executive Officer (PEO) COL Doug Rombough indicated that SOCOM will launch a significant “new program start” aimed at finding/fielding solutions to SOCOM helicopter operations in Degraded Visual Environments (DVE).  The following information was conveyed:

(1)    SOCOM’s Rotary Wing Aviation Directorate has only one new program start planned for FY13 and this program is this DVE program. 

(2)       SOCOM is working closely with other Military Service (Army, Air Force, Navy) elements to most effectively leverage Service investment and plans.  Of particular current interest to SOCOM is the Air Force Research Laboratory’s 3D LZ (Landing Zone) efforts.

(3)       SOCOM’s ideal approach, as always, is to leverage “Big Army” or other Service investment.  

(4)    SOCOM’s DVE focus is beyond simple brown-out, and is stretches across the entire helicopter flight profile, from take-off to en-route flight, and objective area (landing).

(5)     SOCOM is convinced that a multi-sensor approach to countering DVE is called for, integrating a host of the currently-pursued best-of-breed DVE approaches (94 MHz radar, LIDAR, terrain data maps) into a composite solution of small size and weight.

(6)       SOCOM (along with other Service entities) have recently funded DARPA to develop a synthetic backbone (software) that will allow various DVE solution elements to readily integrate on a given platform.

(7)       SOCOM is proceeding from the “threat” baseline outlined in the ICD that it recently developed jointly with the Army.  SOCOM seeks brownout/whiteout countermeasures, cable warning, obstacle avoidance, synthetic vision capability in a solution that is lightweight, integrated, and offers multispectral fusion. 

(8)    SOCOM plans to launch the program with the release to industry of one (or, likely multiple) Requests for Information (RFIs) in the March 2013 timeframe.   As the SOCOM need is urgent, a formal SOCOM DVE solicitation and contract awards are expected during the Summer 2013.

(9)       SOCOM plans a multi-year effort run through its Fort Eustis RW Aviation office.  SOCOM foresees the program consisting of three years (FY13-15) of DVE RDT&E budgeted at a total of $33.5 million and three years of DVE Procurement, funded at a total of $84.6 million.